The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is accepting public comments on an outline for where Big Oil may be allowed to drill over the next 5 years. The current draft plan calls for expanded drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and opens the door for unprecedented and risky drilling in the Arctic.
After reviewing the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for 2012 to 2017 Oil and Gas Leasing, it is clear to me that lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy about the deadly impacts of oil to endangered wildlife are not adequately addressed.
The technology does not currently exist to respond to an Arctic spill of even a fraction of the magnitude of the Gulf spill. There is no reliable, accurate assessment of wildlife that would be impacted in such a spill, preventing adequate planning or compliance with the Endangered Species Act should this new drilling move forward. Until such time as a legitimate clean up plan is in place and the above research is completed, no new Arctic drilling should be authorized.
If additional, new drilling is to occur in the Gulf, greater safeguards for protected species must be instituted. The highest priorities for protecting endangered and threatened sea turtles from oil and gas activities include that must be detailed in the final EIS are:
• Offshore oil and gas operations must avoid sea turtle breeding, foraging and migration habitat
• Protected marine areas must be established in ocean feeding and migratory habitat for sea turtles in oil and gas lease areas in the Gulf of Mexico;
• New and existing offshore oil operations must be re-evaluated and modified in light of the BP oil spill to protect sea turtles and avoid harm or jeopardizing their existence as required under the Endangered Species Act;
• Oil and gas corporations must adopt rigorous monitoring and reporting schemes and fund new sea turtle research to better document the impacts of the full scope of oil and gas development, operations, oil spills and decommissioning on sea turtles and marine life.